The July 8 meeting of the Crozet Community Advisory Committee (CCAC) centered on an in-depth discussion of Crozet character and land use principles related to the ongoing Master Plan update process, featuring a lively debate over the appropriate housing density for a couple of local areas. Albemarle planner Andrew Knuppel led the discussion, and he advised that the CCAC’s August meeting will focus on connectivity (roadways and transit), followed by conservation in future sessions.
The Master Plan contains a future land use map and a table describing the various land use categories. The idea is that these documents provide a legal basis for the county to evaluate landowner requests for zoning changes and to make changes to zoning regulations. During the presentation, Knuppel highlighted a specific property—White Gate Farm—for which county staff recommended an increase in housing density.
White Gate Farm is a 12-acre parcel on Rt. 240 between Wickham Pond and Western Ridge which is currently classified as rural green space in the 2010 Master Plan. The property owners have requested that its designation be re-evaluated for the 2020 Master Plan, as they are unable to build on the land in any way under current zoning. (See nearby map.)
County staff recommended a split of the property’s land use designation between Urban Density Residential (6-12 dwelling units/acre) and Neighborhood Density Residential (3-6 dwelling units/acre), similar to the mix of housing types provided in Wickham Pond. Knuppel said that community feedback from a February workshop generally supported a residential land use designation, and that participants were in favor of improved connectivity (such as sidewalks) between Wickham Pond and Western Ridge. Urban Density Residential is usually intended to be supported by small- to medium-scale commercial and retail uses.
CCAC members debated the merits of the various zoning schemes, with some strongly against urbanization on principle. “Can someone please explain to me why we’re thinking of making something that was open space into urban density?” asked Tom Loach. “How does that make sense?”
White Hall representative to the Board of Supervisors Ann Mallek noted the parcel owner’s dilemma. “[In the 2010 plan], green ink [for green space] was just laid on the entire parcel, so to do anything with the land they’d have to request a rezoning,” said Mallek. “It’s a little harsh for us to say the whole parcel has to be a park when the county’s not paying for it.” She wondered if the site might be a prime spot for “bungalow court” or cluster-type housing. “I’m not suggesting condos and chopping down every tree in sight, but maybe something that can preserve this lovely treed site.”
Joe Fore also offered reasons to rezone to greater density. “As someone who drives by this property every day, it’s not green space,” he said. “It’s an overgrown, dilapidated property with a falling-down barn that you can see through the thickets and tangle of trees—it’s not useful. In the area just to the west there’s a push for light industrial/flex/R&D development, so if we talk about pedestrian opportunities for walkability and bike-ability, that would be an easy commute for people who would be living there. [Low-density] neighborhood residential, which would allow big houses on big lots, would actually be out of character there.”
On the flip side, other members brought up the problem of a lack of infrastructure and local school capacity to support dense housing options, and Ann Mallek wondered if the county could craft a new land use category which allowed for increased density but not apartment complexes, which have proliferated in Crozet in recent years. Several members returned to the Master Plan’s overarching theme of resisting sprawl.
“My answer is going to be no,” said chair Allie Pesch. “I do not want to increase any upper-level density in Crozet because our Master Plan’s number-one guiding principle is ‘preserving the small-town feel.’”
The discussion underscored divisions between how citizens believe growth in Crozet should be managed, and why participation in the Master Plan update process is important for all Crozet residents.
The next meeting is scheduled for August 12 at 7 p.m., and links to more information can be found on the Albemarle.org website under Planning/Master Planning/Crozet Master Plan.